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UMC preparing to ask County to pass $162 million in bonds

By Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
Published On: Feb 25 2013 06:19:29 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 10:27:09 PM CST

ABC-7s Matthew Smith reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

The president of University Medical Center arrived at El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday with a mission.

Jim Valenti is looking to get County commissioners onboard with UMC's plan to sell $162 million in bonds.

The bonds would represent a tax increase of $20/year on a $100,000 home.

Valenti said the bond money would allow UMC to build clinics throughout El Paso.  

He said the clinics would be beneficial in multiple ways:

  1. It would allow the emphasis to shift to outpatient care which is needed to continue to obtain federal money
  2. It would continue to create a model that attracts both insured and uninsured patients.

As a nonprofit hospital, UMC services many of the poor patients in El Paso County.  However, Valenti and County Judge Veronica Escobar warned that if more isn't done to reach out to insured patients the bottom line could balloon in the future as taxpayers fund UMC through property taxes.

"If all you want is UMC to be the location that simply services the uninsured patients that be prepared to find it with higher property taxes," said Escobar.

Changes to Medicaid will not allow Medicaid to reimburse health care providers for repeat patients within a short timeframe.  Increasing outpatient health care resources is expected to cutdown on the amount of ambulance trips and other expenses that often aren't repaid when uninsured patients arrived at UMC.

The new centers would be built in four locations throughout El Paso including the east, west, central and northeast areas.  According to a presentation made by Valenti, the clinics would specialize in both primary and specialty care.

Regular County Commissioners court attendee Salvador Gomez spoke out against the bonds. Gomez said it was simply too hard to pay high taxes in El Paso, especially with the possibility of the city's plan to build a downtown ballpark.

Gomez is involved in litigation against the City of El Paso currently.

"We need to survive, we need the extra dollar so that we can continue to eat," said Gomez, complaining that taxes are burying the citizens of El Paso.

Two Commissioners, Sergio Lewis and Dan Haggerty, were not at Monday's meeting.  However, a final vote won't take place until the end of March or early April.

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